News Archive

Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 23rd February 2001

Frances Barber will star in The Pet Shop Boys (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) musical Closer To Heaven, with a book by Jonathan Harvey, which will open at the Arts Theatre at the end of May. It is set in a nightclub and will be choreographed by Peter Darling.

The Royal Court Theatre is to present a spring season of revivals of the plays of Sarah Kane. Blasted, which made her name with its violence, cannibalism and rape in 1995, will play in April; Crave, four monologues which explore the need for love, in May; and her final work 4.48 Psychosis, about suicide, also in May. A Harold Pinter double bill comprising Ashes To Ashes, a two hander about a marriage in crisis in a regional university town, and Mountain Language, about the injustices suffered by prisoners, will follow in July.

Victoria Wood's television drama Pat And Margaret, adapted for the stage and directed by Janys Chambers, is currently at the New Victoria Newcastle-under-Lyme until 17th March. Pat is a glamorous television soap star, while Margaret cooks chips in a motorway service station, and when their secret is revealed on prime time television their lives are changed forever. Eliza McClelland and Angela Bain star.

The Royal Opera House has instituted a series of free lunchtime recitals in the Linbury Studio Theatre on Mondays until the end of July. Members of the Royal Opera Orchestra and Chorus will present a range of chamber music. Tickets can be reserved from 10.00am on the day of the performance. Further information can be found on the Royal Opera House web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The Almeida Theatre has announced its plans for the rest of the year. Neil LaBute will direct the world premiere of his play The Shape Of Things, looking at two relationships to reveal the limits to which people will go in the pursuit of life and love, which will play from 30th May to 23rd June. Jonathan Kent will direct the following three productions: Chekhov's Platinov in a new adaptation by David Hare, from 11th September to 10th November; Ken Stott in Brian Friel's Faith Healer, which presents three versions of the life of a bogus healer, from 28th November to 19th January; and Oliver Ford Davies as King Lear in early 2002.

Edward Petherbridge is putting the experience of performing in Jeffrey Archer's courtroom drama The Accused to good use. He has already created a one-man show about it, despite the fact that the play only closed on 20th January. Defending Jeffrey, which draws on his personal backstage/onstage experiences during the production, will receive its world premiere at the West Yorkshire Playhouse Leeds, from 29th March to 21st April. Given Petherbridge's comments in the television documentary about the making of the production, and the obvious difficulty he had recalling his contribution during performances, it's surprising he had time to reflect during the proceedings, but then again . . .

The Palace Westcliff is to hold the first ever Agatha Christie Theatre Festival from 8th May to 28th July, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of her death. For the first time all 23 of Christie's stage, radio and television plays will be staged in one season, either in the main house or the Dixon Studio. This will include the first production of The Mousetrap outside the West End, where it is now in its 49th year. In addition, there will be an accompanying programme of lectures and seminars, and a revue based on the author's life. Christie's work rate was prodigious, and by the time of her death she had written 68 mystery novels, more than 100 short stories, 23 plays, 3 books of poetry, 6 romance novels (under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott) and 2 autobiographies.

The Bridewell Theatre is presenting the British premieres of two American musicals this spring. Hello Again by Michael John LaChusa gives Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde a twist, by setting each encounter in a different decade of the 20th century. The cast includes Eileen O'Grady, Nigel Richards and Jenna Russell, directed by Clive Paget, playing from 17th March to 14th April. Is There Life After High School?, with book by Jeffrey Kindley, and music and lyrics by Craig Carnelia, is a nostalgic look back at a lost America provoked by a college reunion. The cast includes Clare Burt, the director is Matthew Ryan, and it runs from 26th April to 26th May. There is also a lunchtime double bill of two short musicals directed by Carol Metcalfe, from 21st March to 12th April. Blood Drive, with music by Joel Derfer, and lyrics by Rachel Sheinkin, is the story of a man who sees a picture of an attractive nurse on a blood donor poster and decides to donate. The Girl In The Frame, with music by Jeremy Desmon, and words by Jeremy Desmon and David Guerra, is about a couple who exchange identical engagement gifts of picture frames with the same image of the perfect woman - or is she?

The Barbican Centre is hosting its annual Only Connect series of live events running from 1st March to 9th April. Its aim is to give artists in different media the opportunity to experiment and collaborate on one off projects, with the emphasis this year on music and film. Events will include Sound On Film Live, the world premiere of four short films accompanied by the live performance of specially commissioned scores; Ennio Morricone making his UK debut, conducting concert works; and Outsider Art/Music matching images by Joe Coleman and Henry Darger with music by The Delgardos and Harry Patch. Further information can be found on the Barbican Centre web site via the link from the London Venues section of TheatreNet.

The Rumour Machine says: that Adrian Noble will direct Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the stage musical based in the 1968 film of Ian Fleming's children's book, at the London Palladium; that Ray Davies musical Come Dancing is also poised for a West End production, after a successful workshop at the National Theatre studio; and that David Baddiel and Frank Skinner will present a stage version of their television show Unplanned Live at the Queen's Theatre for a four week season from 18th April. The Rumour Machine grinds on.

And Finally . . . Better than selling fridges to Eskimos (if that expression isn't Eskimo-ist) Phillip Gandy is staging the Bolshoi Moscow Circus On Ice in Bahrain. The company will take its own ice-freezing plant, and play 44 performances in a 4000 seater big top, after which the freezer will remain in the Gulf pending further bookings.